The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 25, 2013

Mount Kato cheers winter's early arrival

Snow-making machines in high gear with extended cold snap

A bout of unusually cold weather over the weekend may have been a bummer for most, but it was beautiful to Jeff Putrah.

“It’s looking pretty good,” said Putrah, general manager at Mount Kato.

Mankato last saw an above-freezing temperature at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the snow-making equipment at south-central Minnesota’s only ski hill was humming productively enough that one run was open for skiers by Sunday morning. The temperature is forecast to nudge a degree or two above 32 for about four hours this afternoon, then not hit that threshold again until Friday and Saturday. And one long-range forecast, for what it’s worth, predicts the first 11 days of December will also stay below the melting point — a bit different than a year ago when Mankato saw a high of 57 as late as Dec. 3.

There’s almost no natural snow in the extended forecast, but with 21 snow-making machines at Mount Kato the white stuff is piling up at a time when typical highs are near 40 degrees.

“It was terrific,” Putrah said. “We had a couple of good nights and a great day (on Saturday).

So great that when the facility reopens on Wednesday, four runs should be open. After a day off for Thanksgiving, Mount Kato will be open again Friday and through the weekend. The first week brings limited hours with the slopes closing at 4:30 p.m., but Putrah expects evening skiing starting some time during the first week of December.

The cold weather and snow-making will allow Mount Kato to put one of its two major investments for this skiing season to use — a new Piston Bully snow-groomer, which is bigger and more efficient, Putrah said.

“We always pride ourselves on our grooming and this will make it even better,” he said.

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